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Thursday Jul 25, 2013

Joburg's Rea Vaya commuters turn to taxis

Barely two weeks after the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit smart cards were introduced to replace the paper ticket system, most bus commuters found themselves having to use taxis as a source of transport.

They suddenly found themselves having to dig deeper into their pockets as fares had been increased without prior notification, they claimed.

The smart cards, which are also used as tags for entering and exiting bus stations, became operational from July 1, replacing old paper tickets.

'Tickets were affordable to use. You could budget your monthly fee, unlike the cards system,' said Nonga Sonamzi, who has gone back to using taxis to get to work.

Before the new card system, Sonamzi said she spent R150 for tickets that lasted two weeks, costing R300 a month.

But she stopped using the bus when she found herself having to spend the same amount over six days.

Joe Makgahlela is among commuters who never applied for the card. He used to take the bus from Dobsonville to Joburg daily but was 'irritated' by the fact that commuters were now charged per kilometre.

'That's daylight robbery. Obviously this system is working as a meter taxi, charging us more,' he said.

But unlike Makgahlela, Namhla Mpetsheni finds the smart card system more reasonable and affordable 'if used wisely'.

While she described the first week of using the new system as 'frustrating', she was now 'at peace with it'.

She said: 'It was a hectic week, maybe because it was still new. I failed to understand why fees were a bit more than the previous week. I later realised that we were not informed about the increase.'

She found that it was cheaper to load money for the entire month than to load weekly or daily. 'If you're able to calculate your monthly or weekly fee, then it shouldn't be a problem. Your (recharge) money will be deducted once-off, unlike money being deducted every week you load your card,' she said.

Not only did commuters complain about not being informed of the new system, they claimed marshals at bus stations failed to provide them with accurate information when they questioned them.

'They tell us this, then the next thing we get different information,' said Sonamzi.

Rea Vaya spokesman Benny Makgoga denied that commuters had not been informed, saying notices had been put up in April.

He said 'there are more reduced opportunities for fare evasion' with the new system, and that 'the ticket system price was a flat fare system'.

'As with any new system, unfortunately, there have been some technical glitches but we are doing our best to resolve them as soon as possible,' he said.

Other complaints related to ticket vendors who found themselves with no source of income as the new cards require commuters to recharge at stations or at Absa ATMS.

But Makgoga said a number of vendors who satisfied Absa's criteria had been taken in by the bank as their agents to do card top-ups.

The Star




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